European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Workers' participation and risk assessment

Workplace risk assessment is too often treated as a simple tick-box exercise farmed out to outside consultants. It tends to look only at the traditional, visible risks and does not lead on to an ongoing social dialogue to improve working conditions.


A survey of safety reps done in the United Kingdom found that fewer than 30% thought they were adequately involved in risk assessment, 44% were not at all involved and 27% were not involved enough.


Risk assessment is often better in firms where workers' reps actively participate in it. In such cases, it covers a wider range of risks and results in more systematic preventive activities.


A participatory approach is more productive than an officialistic, rulebook-bound risk assessment. Working conditions contribute significantly to wide health inequalities. Workers with least control over their working conditions are more apt to face multiple risks. Participatory assessment can help to turn that trend around by giving a voice to those that currently lack one. They can inform changes to working conditions from their knowledge of what they are really like.


Systematic participation by workers and workers’ reps at all stages of risk assessment ensures that all risks will be properly considered and makes it easier to draw up a workable prevention plan.